top of page
Meet the Team
hg for web.png

Heather L. Gomes
Executive Director

As PAL’s Executive Director, Heather is committed to expanding access to the joys and therapeutic benefits of human-animal interactions while honoring the mutuality of the human-animal bond and nurturing a culture of kindness and respect.  Heather grew up surrounded by animal companions of many species and is grateful to her mother for instilling in her a reverence for nature and animals and an understanding of our interconnectedness.  A lifelong advocate for people and animals, Heather has volunteered with a therapeutic horseback riding program, fostered dogs, and practiced law.  She earned a graduate certificate in Animals and Human Health, B.A. in Psychology, M.A. in Women’s Studies, and J.D.  A native Washingtonian, Heather currently lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with her husband and two dogs, Olivia and Winter.  In her free time, she likes to connect with friends and family, read, travel, watch soccer, and make music playlists.


Claire Jacobson
On-Screen Programs Manager

Claire serves as our On-Screen Programs manager to create and develop PAL programs in the virtual space, as well as supporting our social media, website, and other volunteer management and appreciation efforts. She is a lifelong animal lover, who always had a gaggle of cats, dogs, and even chickens growing up. She has a background in child development and education. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Social Work, and is passionate about educational equity. Claire is originally from Dallas, TX and currently lives in Washington DC with her husband Anders, dog Poppy, and cat George. In her free time, she likes to knit, sew, bake, and watch period dramas!


Melissa Puglisi
Operations Manager

Melissa serves as our Operations Manager, ensuring effective day-to-day logistics and planning of in-person PAL visits, communication and management of current and prospective volunteers, database administration, weekly newsletter creation and more. She started with PAL in July 2019 as a volunteer with her Golden Retriever, Breeze, and joined the staff team in July of 2022. She has a degree from Florida State University in Mass Media Studies/Communication. Melissa is originally from Ft. Walton Beach, FL and currently lives in Ashburn, VA with her husband Joe, and Goldens Breeze and Boomer. In her free time, she likes to spend time outdoors, take classes at Orangetheory Fitness and go to Nationals and Capitals games!

kerri pic _edited_edited.jpg

Kerri Schepers
Coaching & Evaluation Committee Chair

furcast willey _with lisa jacques_ halloween 2021.jpeg

Lisa Jacques
Visit Requests Committee Chair

Earl Strimple, DVM
Founder & Chairman

Jessica Brede Eisenberg

Toni Billingslea

C Madison "Brick" Brewer

Sheila Cohen

Gwen Davidow

Evan Gottfried

Dawn Mancuso

Carlin Rankin

Board of Directors
bottom of page